Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cassini Cellars - current releases

Photo: Adrian Cassini

Since opening in 2009, Cassini Cellars has been releasing solid and interesting wines.

There is, it seems to me, a house style. The white wines deliver lovely and focused fruit flavours while the reds are generous in flavour and texture. In short, satisfying wines.

The winery was established on a vineyard south of Oliver by Adrian Cassini, an immigrant from Romania with a healthy streak of entrepreneurship and a love of wines.

As a winemaker, he retained Philip Soo, the Summerland-based consultant with a stable of good wineries in his professional portfolio (Noble Ridge, Dirty Laundry, Gold Hill, to name just a few). It is difficult to understand how he juggles his clients but the fact is that all are making good wine.

The reviews that follow are from wines that Cassini released this year. Alas, by the time I got around to reviewing them all, some were sold out at the winery. But it is probable that even those wines might still be on the shelf in a private wine store or two; or on a restaurant list.

Here are my notes.

Cassini Chardonnay 2010 ($19 for a production of 400 cases). This wine, I am informed, sold out quickly. This is a textbook unoaked Chardonnay. I know that I have disparaged unoaked Chardonnay occasionally as cocktail wines … but this is a very good wine. It begins with aromas of pear, citrus apples and pineapple, all of which are duplicated on the palate. The finish is crisp and fresh. 90.

Cassini Chardonnay Reserve 2009 ($29). This is the wine for those who love Chardonnays that have had the full treatment. I might have liked a hair less oak but my neighbour, with whom I shared the bottle, raved about it. Gold in colour, the wine has aromas and flavours of coconut, butterscotch, vanilla, tangerine and ripe pear. The wine is rich on the palate and has a long finish. 88.

Cassini Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($19 for a production of 181 cases). Think of Graves, not New Zealand. The wine has aromas of pear, herbs and citrus that carry through to the palate. The finish is crisp and dry, with mineral notes. 88.

Cassini Mama Mia Pinot Gris 2010 ($19 for a production of 620 cases). It is good that production is substantial because this is a crowd-pleaser with just over 15 grams of residual sugar but a fairly moderate acidity. As a result, the wine is juicy with flavours of pears and ripe apples and a lingering sweetness on the finish. 88.

Cassini Viognier 2010 ($19 for a production of 425 cases). With an alcohol of 12.6%, this is probably the lightest wine from Cassini in the vintage. It has pleasant fruit aromas and flavours of apricot, pineapple, pear and lemon. The wine is crisp and tangy with skein of minerality. 88.

Cassini Nobilus 2008 Merlot Collector’s Series ($39 for a production of 290 cases). This big red (14.9% alcohol) announces itself with a dramatic aroma of black currants, lingonberry, black cherry and raspberry jam. The richly textured palate presents flavours of blackberry, dark chocolate, figs, spice and cedar. A generous and satisfying Merlot, it has the structure and concentration to justify cellaring it a few more years. 91.

Cassini Red Carpet Pinot Noir 2010 ($20 for a production of 1,049 cases). This easy-drinking wine has to be one of the best value Pinot Noirs in the Okanagan. It is made from grapes grown near Osoyoos, which is generally not regarded as ground zero for Pinot Noir. Yet the grapes were obviously well grown. This is a nice ripe, medium-bodied wine with 14% alcohol (which is unobtrusive). It has aromas and flavours of cherries and spice cake, with a hint of chocolate. 90.

Cassini Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 ($29 for a production of 115 cases). In his notes on the wine, Adrian Cassini pays credit to the grower, a friend called Lino Barbbieri, who grows low-tonnage Pinot Noir in a small vineyard north of Oliver. “Rich soil, perfect sun exposure, cool nights and the meticulous Lino makes the perfect formula for the moodiest grape on Earth,” Adrian writes. The result is a very good Pinot Noir with vibrant flavours of raspberry and cherry and a bright, silky palate. 90-91.

Cassini Maximus 2009 Collector’s Series ($34). Another big ripe 14.9%-alcohol wine, this is a blend of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec. This begins with aromas of currants and blackberry. It has complex layers of flavour – black currants, plum, spice, sage – with long ripe tannins and a concentrated texture. I would not hesitate to lay this down at least until 2015. 90-92.

Cassini Syrah Collector’s Series 2009 ($34). A robust Syrah in the Cassini style, the wine has meaty and dark fruit aromas with flavours of black cherry, plum, fig, liquorice and pepper and an almost earthy finish. 90.

Cassini Malbec 2009 Collector’s Series ($29 for a production of 85 cases). Full-bodied, even chewy in texture, this is a wine with aromas and flavours of blackberry, cherry, peppery spice and vanilla. 90.

Cassini Cabernet Franc 2009 Collector’s Series ($NA). This is a big rustic wine that needed plenty of time to open its aromas and its spicy, herbal flavours. 88.

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